Assessment of wellness tourism development in Hokkaido: a multicriteria and strategic choice analysis


New lifestyles in contemporary mobile and leisure societies are changing the way people deal with their health, inter alia by attaching an increasing importance to wellbeing and preventive behavior, along with growing concerns on environmental sustainability and with an interest in unique and authentic place-based experiences. This dynamics has far reaching implications for tourism, with wellness products and services showing a significant growth over the past decades, on top of the general growth in tourism services. With a long historical tradition and abundant natural resources potentially related to health and wellness services, the region of Hokkaido (Japan) offers a variety of relevant services in this field. Nevertheless, perhaps new complementary products and services related to health and wellness may be added to the current supply, enlarging the value chain of this sector, with potentially high positive economic and social impacts on the region. Based on interviews and surveys among experts and relevant stakeholders in this field, this paper analyses the potential development and foreseeable impact of wellness services in Hokkaido, by combining different decision-making techniques (multicriteria and strategic choice analysis), with a view to policy recommendations for an integrative diversification of products and services, assuming the onsen (traditional Japanese bath) experience as the core element of tourism supply. In this context, a strategic orientation to external markets seems to be more effective.

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Fig. 1

Source: Hokkaido Prefectural Government (2014)

Fig. 2

Source: Hokkaido Prefectural Government (2014)

Fig. 3

Source: Japan Tourism Agency (2014)


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Corresponding author

Correspondence to João Romão.


Appendix 1: Questions for the interviews with experts and stakeholders

  1. 1.

    Despite the abundant hydrothermal resources, spa services in Hokkaido are not so developed as in other countries. Do you agree?

  2. 2.

    Is there a risk of loss of authenticity if new spa services are added to the traditional onsen services?

  3. 3.

    Is there a cultural obstacle in Japan regarding the introduction of new spa services (like massages)?

  4. 4.

    Is there a cultural obstacle among Japanese entrepreneurs regarding innovation (in general terms)?

  5. 5.

    Has Hokkaido human resources and technological knowledge for the development of new spa services?

  6. 6.

    What kind of tourism products and services can complement health and wellness tourism?

  7. 7.

    Are labor costs a disadvantage for tourism in Japan?

  8. 8.

    Are fluctuations in the exchange a risk of disadvantage for tourism in Japan?

  9. 9.

    Is there a general perception of the importance of Health and Wellness for tourism development in Japan and Hokkaido?

  10. 10.

    Should health and wellness tourism be a priority for Hokkaido, or there are other activities with higher potential for the region?

  11. 11.

    Can the local activities related to food, ecological activities or cosmetic production benefit from the development of health and wellness services?

  12. 12.

    What factors are determinant for the diversification of health and wellness services in Hokkaido?

  13. 13.

    How would you expect this sector to grow in the future?

  14. 14.

    Would this growth be leaded by national or foreign tourists?

Appendix 2: Evaluation of the assessment factors by the expert panel (total scores)

Territorial resources Innovation potential Wellness tourism dynamics Competitive context
Thermal resources 36 Knowledge for new services 27 New trends in health care 24 Connectivity to internal markets 19
Landscape 25 Human resources for new services 34 Environmental and sustainability concerns 19 Connectivity to external markets 21
Natural resources 22 Openness to service innovation 24 Global expansion of wellness tourism 26 Competition from other countries 23
Healthy food 18 Conflict of expectations 9 Support from public institutions 8 Competition from other Japanese regions 24
Cultural heritage 15 Links to other services 21 Initiatives by key private stakeholders 29 Cost-efficiency of tourism services 26
Knowledge for traditional services 10 Links to other sectors 11 Regional tourism growth 20 Exchange rate 13
  1. Total scores obtained in a survey to a panel of experts (summing up the individual scores given by each expert)

Appendix 3: Impacts of the assessment factors on the scenarios by the expert panel (total scores)

  Traditional services for domestic market Traditional services for external markets Diversification of services for the domestic market Diversification of services for external markets
Territorial resources 18 16 12 14
Innovation potential 7 12 19 22
Wellness tourism dynamics 15 12 16 17
Competitive context 23 15 13 9
  1. Total scores obtained in a survey to a panel of experts (summing up the individual scores given by each expert)

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Romão, J., Machino, K. & Nijkamp, P. Assessment of wellness tourism development in Hokkaido: a multicriteria and strategic choice analysis. Asia-Pac J Reg Sci 1, 265–290 (2017).

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  • Sustainable tourism
  • Regional development
  • Integrative diversification
  • Wellness
  • Multicriteria analysis
  • Strategic choice analysis

JEL Classification

  • R11
  • D81
  • L83